The Feast of the Baptism of Jesus
[Scripture Readings: Is 42: 1-4, 6-7; Acts 10: 34-38; Lk 3: 15-16, 21-22]
Crossing a threshold is an image that is frequently on my mind during the first weeks of a new liturgical year. It brings home to me the realization that every end is a beginning and every beginning is an end. When we cross a threshold we leave something behind and we enter into the excitement and the challenge of something new. Yet life is not a series of disconnected episodes. A threshold joins what is behind with what lies ahead. When we stand at a threshold we stand at the intersection of our past and our future.
Jesus’ baptism can be understood as Jesus crossing a threshold in his life. He was leaving behind his hidden life and he was being commissioned for his public life. Jesus was chosen by God and was being sent to announce God’s justice, the reconciliation between God and his sons and daughters. Empowered by the Holy Spirit he was sent to teach and to heal; to lead us out of the darkness of sin and alienation into the light of God’s truth. St. Luke summarized this saying that Jesus went about doing good and healing.
And you and I? Baptism is our incorporation into Christ. Celebrating the liturgy allows us to appropriate as adults what most of us were given as infants. By God’s free choice we have been called to be Christ’s disciples. It remains for us to realize God’s choice in our lives. We have been healed so that we may hear and understand Jesus’ teaching. We have been set free so that we may put it into practice. We are being led out of the darkness of ignorance and confusion into the light of God’s truth.
As Christ’s disciples we are also commissioned for service. We too have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to announce God’s justice. For most of us this will be more by our way of life than by our words. Like Jesus we are called to go about doing good, quietly and gently. We too are called to heal. Some are particularly gifted in bringing healing into the lives of others, but all of us can contribute to the healing of broken lives through forgiveness and effective compassion. We too are called to shine as lights in the world by our behavior.
Is this a task beyond our capability? Yes, if left to ourselves. But we have not been left to ourselves. Baptism is the intersection of the human and divine. Jesus, God the Son, took on the burden of our humanity. Because of this we are enabled to share in his divinity. We have God’s word to form and guide us. We have the Holy Spirit to empower us. We have Christ’s flesh and blood to nourish us. With gratitude and confidence let us live in the dignity that has been granted us and proclaim the goodness of God in all that we say and do.